Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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June Bugs
Nature Bulletin No. 121   September 6, 1947
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

Did you notice that there were mighty few June Bugs this year? Most summers, if you stood outdoors near a light, one of those buzz bombs of the insect world would be likely to land on you and crawl up on your neck or in your hair. Ordinarily, if a door or window were left open a few minutes, one or more of them would enter and be heard blundering about the room. Finally one would land with a thud. Then you would hear the scratching of its six pairs of claws and discover a chunky brown beetle about three-quarters of an inch long, with its yellowish wings sticking out untidily from under its shiny wing covers.

The June bug, or May beetle, lays a few dozen eggs in June or July, each egg enclosed in a little ball of dirt, in shallow burrows in fields, meadows and lawns. The egg hatches into a white grub that can hardly crawl because of its large abdomen curled under the body. They feed on the roots of grass and other plants, often doing much damage to lawns and crops. In the fall they burrow down two feet or more to spend the winter. In spring they come back up to continue feeding and growing until fall, when they again burrow deep. In June or July of the next year they become pupae, and in August or September the adult beetles hatch out.

But, and here is the curious thing, the adult stays buried in the soil and does not emerge until the following spring. Then, one warm night, it comes out and flies to the nearest trees where it chews on the leaves until mating and egg-laying time.

Of course, the June bug has its enemies. On farms the hogs root up fields and pastures to find the grubs and beetles. Shrews and other field mammals undoubtedly eat many. So do blackbirds and crows, which have been known to tear up a golf course fairway infested with these grubs. And then there is a slender black wasp which burrows down, paralyzes a grub by stinging it, and lays an egg on its back. That egg soon hatches and the wasp larva sucks on the body fluid of the living grub -- finally eating all of it.

Those fat white grubs with brown heads made good fish bait.

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